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I don't know about you, but I hate when movie studios dig into the vault of horror films and try to reboot, remake, or one-up a cult classic or something that doesn't need to be revisited in the first place. Recycling may be great for the environment, but when it comes to the film industry, it doesn't always work.
The Last House on the Left was originally written and directed by Wes Craven in 1972. The story revolved around a pair of teenage girls going to a rock concert for one of their birthdays, only to be kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by a gang of maniacs while trying to score some weed. The twist comes later, when a twist of fate deposits the murderous gang at the house of one of the kids’ parents. As the parents slowly discover the truth, the criminals find themselves on a side of terror and violence they’ve never experienced before.
Fast forward to 2009 and we have a Wes Craven-produced version of The Last House on the Left, which is a story about a pair of teenagers -- Mari Collingwood (Sara Paxton) and Paige (Martha MacIssac) -- trying to score some weed from Justin (Spencer Treat Clark), who is the son of Krug (Garret Dillahunt), a wanted criminal. Krug is on the lam after having been rescued from the authorities by his brother, Francis (Aaron Paul), and girlfriend, Sadie (Riki Lindhome). After taking Mari and Paige hostage, the teens are tortured -- knives held to their throats, punched, stabbed, shot at, and even raped. Later, when a storm hits the area and the gang of drifters are lost in the woods, they come upon a house that, unbeknownst to them, belongs to Mari's parents, Emma (Monica Potter) and Dr. John Collingwood (Tony Goldwyn). Sound familiar?
The Last House on the Left is not one of those movies where you are worried about whether there are killers lurking in the dark outside the house. These killers are front and center, right in your face, reveling in their lack of a moral compass. They're about putting people through hell and watching their victims suffer (Sadie and Francis watch, and occasionally help, Krug as he rapes Mari in the woods; Justin just cringes and looks away). These aren’t over-the-top psychopaths hiding behind hockey gear or Shatner masks, but the face of evil is always more disturbing when it looks like somebody you might meet walking down the street.
The problem with the film, however, is the fact that we've been here, we've done that. It doesn't matter that I believe the story works just as well as it did when Wes Craven made the original incarnation of The Last House on the Left. Nor does it matter that director Dennis Iliadis shows skill and precision behind the camera -- despite his lingering far too long on the rape scene, and falling into this new trend of extreme close-ups of a woman's skin, or random shots of a crucifix, that pop up in every single horror film nowadays. It also doesn't matter that Iliadis has a more than capable cast to carry out a well-intentioned script, and chose not to include more than one scene with gratuitous nudity. The fact of the matter is, in the end, it's boring. This is a remake trying to play itself off as an original horror film when it's really just recycled material.
Rather than crawl out from under the rock pinning it down and labeling it a money-making remake, The Last House on the Left has found it's safe little nook under that rock and stays there. It goes about life safely, occasionally popping its head out from under that rock to say, "Hey, look at me." The Last House on the Left never strays from the formula that makes it another predictable horror movie. It never strays from the path set for it in 1972, when this was an original idea. It makes no effort to remodel the original framework; it just adds a new coat of paint and some crappy new shingles.
There are two versions of The Last House on the Left: the horror-standard theatrical and unrated cuts. Either way, it's the same movie, with maybe a little more blood, beating, or raping in the unrated version (the movie is four minutes longer, and I am sure most of that time is used on the rape scene). Pick your poison, but if you're buying the unrated disc, it would seem pointless to watch the theatrical version, unless you’re just inexplicably curious to see how people saw it in theaters.
As for bonus materials, there aren’t many. There's an “Inside Look” featurette, which obviously features key cast members and behind-the-camera people talking about their experience shooting the film, and a few deleted scenes. That's it. When I saw there were only two features on the disc, part of me wanted to jump for joy, while the other part of me wanted to slit someone's throat and ask, "That's it? Two features?" Of course, they probably wouldn’t be able to concentrate on my questions since they'd be choking on their own blood. But I’d feel better.
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